Stories

So, today’s musing will be about, essentially, stories. 

Stories, you see, are very important. Perhaps even sacred. They touch us, and can become real, more real, even, then a reality we’re sometimes forced into. 

Yes, I think there is a sacredness about stories. 

Stories can save lives, and damn them. 

They can create people, moulding them into whatever image they think best.  

Not just people. Stories can create things. They bring into existence things that weren’t there a moment before. 

They create revolutions, saviours saints and sinners. 

They destroy, crush what once was, grind the past into dust. 

Or they save it. 

I do not speak only of written stories, or oral, or anything so narrow, though this is all true of them. 

Each of us is a story, tethered to our path. We are shaped by our setting, our conflicts, and our costars. We are shaped by parents teachers and friends. Certainly, we have the freedom to cut our tether, wander off. But where will we go? We’re very limited, you see. And, come hell or high water,we’ll find ourselves tethered to something new.  

So, here’s the question I posit. 

We are all tied to our stories. 

They shape us. 

Is. This. Good? 

Stories are sacred things. And we’re all in the tapestry of one great story. 

To quote Grant Morrison, there’s only one story.  Luckily, it’s got all the other ones in it. 

Clearly, being part of something greater is admirable. It’s beautiful. 

But you know what else? Stories are cheap. They’re a dime a dozen and they aren’t real. 

They’re two dimensional. 

They lie to you. 

They lead you down twisted roads, good and bad. 

Stories, in short, are shallow representations of real life, trying to nail down things in words that can barely be narrowed to specifics through actions. 

Stories, are a cheap counterfeit coin. 

And each of you out there, you’re more then that. 

I don’t care what kind of a king-bastard son-of-a-bitch you are, you’re real. You’re touchable. 

You, are more then a story. 

But here’s the thing. Look around you. Out of all the things to affect you, profoundly, how many did you get to touch? How many were a physical reality to you? And how many weren’t?

Which ones were anecdotes?

Parables?

People you’ve never met or exchanged more then a word with? 

Most things that affect you, you can’t touch. 

Most things that affect you, are stories. 

So yes, of course you’re more valuable then some iron slug. 

But look closer. See it sparkle. Faerie gold perhaps, but really, will that change the way you hold it?

The Riddle Game

Hello everyone.

So I haven’t blogged in a while, and I realize that is a big deal to nobody but me. All the same, here is a new blog.

I was last going through the traits of a story that, to my mind, make it worthwhile.

I don’t feel like doing that today.

Instead, I’m going to analyze a quote that stuck with me from the moment I read it.

I’ll go over both what I think of it, and why it struck me.

It is from, of all things, a Magic the Gathering card. Believe it or not, those have some amazing quotes on them. They are amazing not least of all because you don’t get context. I have found, for me at least, that that is an extremely effective and thought producing technique. It gives the impression that there is a whole other world, just around the curtain, one that the writer knows about but hasn’t given you yet. It also strikes me a something that, because it’s obviously incomplete, your mind will keep playing with and mulling over, like a song you have stuck in your head.

By the way, I don’t know if it’s true, but apparently if you have a song stuck in your head, it’s because it’s incomplete, and your mind wants to finish it. So, to get it out, you have to sing the song to the end.

That’s like so many things for me. I don’t know or have proof if it’s true. But it’s cool, I heard it somewhere, maybe multiple somewheres, and it makes sense. So I decide to run with it.

You can’t prove everything. That’s a waste of your too short life.

But I digress. Here’s the quote.

 

A riddle is nothing more than a trap for small minds, baited with the promise of understanding.”

Sphinx of Magosi

 

Now, the reason that struck me so was, firstmost, because I love riddles. They’re cool and big and harken to something more. The most obvious example of this is The Hobbit. The narrator talks about the riddle game being very old, and how even very evil creatures are afraid to break the rules, then Gollum and Bilbo have their little game in the dark.

Again, that is a snapshot, implying that there is so much more to it, just behind the curtain. It has a sense of grandeur.

So yeah. Riddles are cool.

But.

Read that quote. Think about it.

It makes sense, doesn’t it?

Because let’s be honest, what’s the use of a riddle?

In what way will it bring you epiphany to realize that Bilbo is talking about eggs or teeth? It’s pretty useless. But riddles give you the illusion of reaching knowledge, of said epiphany. You’ve worked and thought and suddenly the bulb comes on. You’ve got it! You’ve succeeded! But it’s like succeeding in videogames. Your brain cranks out the dopamine and you feel that warm glow, but you really haven’t done anything.

Ooo, eggs.

But you, and most people, make the assumption that a riddle will bring you understanding. Epiphany.

You look at a riddle and get trapped in it, rabid for the answer. Because you want to understand.

Let me give you an example.

A man walks into a restaurant and sees they are serving albatross soup. He orders a bowl, has one taste, then leaves the restaurant. He walks home, locks himself in the bathroom, and shoots himself.

Why?

This is a riddle. You’re trapped in it. You want to know why the man shot himself over something so apparently trivial. And you’ll work it over in your mind now, trying to figure it out. Wanting to understand.

That’s really why people try to solve riddles, they want to understand. That’s the bait.

Now take a step back.

Who cares?

I mean, genuinely, who gives a damn? Knowing about this man, about why he did this thing, will it change you in any way? Will it have any true effect on you?

Of course not. Not if you expand your mind. Come to terms with that.

But at your core, I think you’ll still want to know.

I heard that riddle, and I had it in the back of my mind for years. The man who gave it wouldn’t tell me, but it sat on the backburner, because I wanted that understanding.

But when I got it…did it really change anything?

Of course not.

The riddle was a trap, for my mind to run around in.

Baited

With the promise

Of understanding.

Which is really sad, because it’s more fun for riddles to be a grand, meaningful affair.

And I think they are. And here’s why.

There are big riddles in life. Things you can’t understand, regardless of if you know them to be true or not. But you’re the better for working at them. For following that tangled thread to its core.

The stupid riddle about the albatross? It’s a microcosm. It’s something meaningless to prepare you for the real riddles. The real paradoxes and questions and things you can’t understand but should still think about.

You know why? Because you can’t just step back from everything. You’re the better for going at it and trying to untangle it. Trying to understand.

As Arliden said… “And then the boy’s ass fell off.”

FB

Learning–Continuing an introduction

So my last post was about comedy, and how it is used to hold people’s attention. Now, I’m going to tell you where I was going with that.

There are a lot of characters and stories I like or think are worthwhile for various reasons. At various points, I will no doubt give you some of them, why I like them, and what makes them worthwhile. But first, I’m doing a few posts about the wider brushmarks, the specific things that make a character or story valuable.

Last week, I talked about comedy. To summarize, I said that comedy is inherently surprising, and because of that, it holds our attention. This means that a story, or a character, that utilizes comedy will hold our attention moreso. Today, I’m going to go into a second aspect that makes something worth your time. This aspect is, simply put, learning.

I want to learn something new from what I read and watch. I want it to make me think, and to make me a wiser, better, and more knowledgeable person. I will often take notes, just jotting things down on my cell phone, to help me remember a specific thought or phrase or trick, one that I think relates to real life.

Now simply saying learning can encompass pretty much every one of these points, but I’m talking about more specific learning here. For instance, my last post referenced an immortal character saying he can just about sit through a good comedy. That made me stop and think, follow through, and reach the conclusions I talked about there. That’s the sort of learning I’m talking about.

Perhaps the most recent example I can think of is from Hickman’s Thor comic. A son is concerned that his father will make the wrong decision, and is told as follows:

“Most children underestimate their parents. They mistake pragmatism as a lack of idealism. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

This made me stop and think. Now, I’m not foolish or naïve enough to believe that because someone wrote this down in a story, that means it’s always true. However, I’ve read a fair bit by this guy, and he seems extremely intelligent, both intellectually and emotionally. And you can’t simply decide to give no thought to anything you read in fiction because “it’s just a story.” Then you’re an idiot.

So this idea must have come from somewhere, and I find it unlikely that there just happened to be enough morons and assholes in the right place at the right time to kickstart a false idea. I understand this is sometimes the case, but in this case I doubt it.

All of which is simply to say, I feel this line to be accurate in many circumstances. I would not have thought of it before, but it’s a significant idea, one that was pointed out to me by reading fiction. This particular comic? It wasn’t a fantastic comic. The story wasn’t great. But there are interesting things in it, lines to make you think.

It mentions the Poetic Edda, a collection of ancient poems where we get many (most?) of the Norse myths. I knew of it before, but it’s the type of seed that would spur research, spur learning.

I only picked up this comic because of the author, Jonathan Hickman. He puts lines, ideas, things of allkinds into his works. Things to make you think. Things to make you learn.

That makes his stories worthwhile.

FB

Immortality and the Seven Stories: the start of an introduction

So I started this post with the idea of making it the first of a series, a type of post I could come back to when I wasn’t sure what to write.

It rabbitholed.

What was originally going to be a simple introductory post about the sorts of characters I find interesting turned into an analysis on comedy, the finite tendency of pretty much everything, and The Seven Stories, with touching’s on black humour, Gary Larson, Flipper, the Ludicrous, and Immortality. (Okay, I cut out the Flipper part).

 

I read a comic a long time ago, in which a group of characters are standing together, talking, and the subject turns to media. One character comments, saying “Me, I can just about sit through a good comedy.” This in itself is a pretty useless line. But look at it just a little more closely, and with a tiny bit more context.

The character who says this is immortal. He’s been alive since the cavemen.

And still, you could really easily overlook this. When I read it for the first time though, it struck me. It hinted at ideas I’d thought about before, showing a glimpse of them.

To be perfectly honest, the line irked me. Comedies had never really made an impact on me, and the fact that this character only liked comedies, well. What a moron.

Then I gave the line a little more thought, bubbling away. Then I learnt some other things, and it just sort of fell into place.

Now we’re going to have a tangent.

Almost anything in the world is limited to clearly, or mostly-clearly, defined categories.

There is a finite number of types of people (this is only logical, but I’ll get into it in another post. For now, think of myers-briggs as an imperfect example, though there are many imperfect examples, used to classify many different aspects of personality).

There are a limited number of social interactions to be had. An entire category, probably the most common category, is classified as ‘games,’ including such gems as ‘Blemish,’ and ‘Now I’ve Got You, You Son of a Bitch.’

There are about 250 people you interact with and influence.

There are about 1500 problems.

There are forty solutions.

Everything is finite.

Sorry.

Now, let’s go back to comedy.

There are only seven stories. Comedy is one of them. Another is Tragedy. Overcoming the Monster, The Quest. Voyage and Return, Rags to Riches, and Rebirth. Seven stories.

Only seven.

Let’s pick Overcoming the Monster as an example. The most classic image of this is David and Goliath, but the story is everywhere. Crack open a book of fairy tales, see how many ogres are defeated by clever boys. Looking for modern stories? How about Terminator? Rocky? Star Wars? Every horror movie ever?

The Quest? Again, you can go to any fairy tale (I’d recommend The Drummer, followed by The Three Golden Hairs). Then go watch Indiana Jones. Read The Kingkiller Chronicle (which you should do anyways). If we wanted to go even more into the patterns stories fall into, we could talk about McGuffins, but we’ll save that.

And as for Voyage and Return, well, we’ve got Alice, Coraline, the Pevensies, Gulliver, and Richard Mayhew. To name a few.

Next time you’re watching a movie or reading a book, pay attention. See how many of the story archetypes they use (They’ll overlap or be used in tandem a lot. The Quest especially, in my experience).

If you read the same book enough times, it will get boring.

Authors will work against this of course. They’ll combine different Stories (particularly in adding humour). Give you unique (or more unique) characters. Give their writing a different style, use turns of phrase that make you stop and think. Plant ideas that make you stop and think.

This posted started with quoting a comic. That comic is a fantastic example of planting ideas, dropping hints of things to make you think. The very next line, delivered in an apocalyptic scenario, holds all sorts of meaning:

“Comedy.

A narrative structure in which,

despite a series of ridiculous mishaps,

all goes well.

Against all odds.”

There’s obviously more to this line then just a response, but the story moves on.

My only point being, the best stories, they have something more to them. Something to make you pay attention. Something that makes it worthwhile to read again.

But still, read enough stories, see enough ideas, enough clever phrases, and you’ll become familiar with them. And you know what they say about familiarity.

There are seven, and they can be integrated to provide a little variety, but ultimately you can only watch someone Overcome the Monster so many times before you’re done with it. And the same applies to all of the stories. Well, six of them.

And here’s why.

When something is boring, you ignore it. There are clearly better things you can be doing.

When something is predictable, it is boring.

When you see something happen enough times, it becomes predictable.

Right?

So when you see the same story again and again, it becomes predictable.

Making it boring.

So that you ignore it.

I’ve mentioned a few of the exceptions, and the ways storytellers try to combat this, but for the most part, this is true.

Me and you find certain stories boring.

How boring would someone who was immortal find most stories? How many times has he seen them before now?

More times than he can count.

He says he can “just about sit through a good comedy.” That’s tantamount to “the only type of story I can almost watch without getting numbingly bored enough that I have to walk away, is a comedy.”

You will notice, a comedy is one of the Seven Stories. So why doesn’t it fit into those same rules?

The answer goes to what comedy actually is. What we find funny, is, essentially that which surprises us. We are struck by something unexpected, something you can’t prepare for, and it elicits a response.

We laugh at the ludicrous.

Next time you’re reading a cartoon, or watching a movie, and you laugh at something, ask yourself if the punchline surprised you. Of course it did.

This is why so often people laugh at black comedy. It is so nonsensical. The expectation of laughter at an offensive situation. A situation that could never, or should never, happen. And under all that, the fact that, at least in this fantasy world, the situation is happening.

Not even getting into when you wonder what sort of degenerate came up with the joke, or, worse, is telling it.

Look at The Far Side. Unbelievable situations. Absurd and unexpected. They illicit surprise.

 

What is that policeman thinking? What the fuck is that policeman thinking?

And I just feel I should mention, new roommate implies there was an old roommate.

Which is beside the point.

This panel is utterly absurd. It’s a situation that really really should never happen, and we can’t imagine it really happening. Yet, it is. And the policeman is saying, completely nonchalantly, “Yeah, you’re going to be living with this guy now. You know, the one who chews his pillows.”

When the situation is no longer funny is when it is no longer unbelievable. When, though it be ludicrous, there is a connection, an empathy felt for the situation. Then you can’t laugh at it.

If you have a relative who has been torn apart in a prison, this comic will no longer be humorous to you, simply because the situation is now real. You couldn’t laugh.

You would understand the tragedy.

Okay, so you’d still laugh at this one. I mean, look at Durk’s eyes.

There are, I’m sure other examples of humour, besides that which surprises, but that is the central one, and most, if not all, jokes will revolve around it.

And all of this is a farcry from where we started, which was Comedy, and The Seven Stories.

Succinctly stated, here is my point.

We quickly become bored by, and subsequently ignore, that which is predictable. Get enough stories, and the stories you don’t have yet will be predictable, and thus boring and ignored.

Except for comedy.

Because comedy, you see, is built from the premise of surprise. That is its heart. So even if the story is one you know, one you’ve seen before, it won’t matter. A good comedy will still surprise you, still hold your attention. Because, it is not predictable.

And you know what? This entire concept was held in a characters nonchalant comment, a comment then ignored.

 

And this is the first bit of my intro. Comedy as a form of holding attention, basically.

Opinions on the ideas here? Does the fact that things are finite bother you, or do you think you’ve found an example I’ve overlooked? Let me know in the comments.

FB

Mulling Thoughts: Belonging

Today, I just have a little thought, barely more then a statement really, but I want you all to think about it.

That’s how you become wise, you know. You ask the next question, and you think, even subconcioiusly, just keeping the idea in your mind, and working your way through it.

Today’s thought is belonging.

It’s a simple thought, and you all are aware of it, you’d know the right answer if asked. But it’s not something you think about.

When you are included, when there’s a word or a phrase that brings you into a group, you feel a glow, a joy, that doesn’t belong with something so small.

So that’s todays thought. Belonging. How simple it is, but how meaningful.

So if you have the opportunity to include someone, to talk to them, and make them feel a part of things, take it. It costs you nothing. But you know what? It’s priceless.

Becoming

I was going through my old yearbooks yesterday, and I was struck by how young I looked. I had quite a babyface.

(Now, of course, I’m utterly chiseled)

But at the time, I wouldn’t have thought I looked particularly young.

There were a couple pictures of girls I knew at the time, who I had thought gorgeous. This creeped me out just a little, because looking at those photos now, they appear to be children.

Of course, so did I. But the logic of that never really enters into your raised brow reaction.

 

Today, I was looking through a program, from three years ago. I was in a community theatre program, and at the end of this booklet, there were pictures of everyone who had been involved.

On the first page, there was a photo and bio of someone I vaguely remembered. To be honest, the extent of my memory was basically “She was older than me.” Maybe, “She seemed shy,” but even that’s pushing it.

I read her bio, and it said that she had “just graduated from high school.”

This caused me to pause.

That would mean that she was then, the age I am now.

Someone, who I had a brief impression of as ‘older’, was at that point, at the same stage of their chronology as I am now.

I can’t entirely explain what this mean, or why it seems worth mentioning, except to say that I find it…off-putting.

I skimmed through a few more pages. There’s someone, she wrote and directed her own play. We had a stage fighting workshop, and she was really nice and patient with the stupid kid who didn’t know what was going on (me).

That memory is always going to stick with me.

There’s someone else. I met her a year afterwards, in a writing program.

There’s a guy who I remember really liking. He was clever and easy to talk to. He did a standup that was incredible. I’d like to hear it again now.

There’s someone, she was two years older than me at the time. Now she looks so young.

There’s someone I see all the time now. She works at the book shop.

Funny, the connections. You move in similar circles, you’ll be pushed into the same people again and again.

There’s one, two, three people I haven’t seen since. I’m utterly sure, right now, that I’ll meet them again, that I’ll say hello, or they will.

Funny.

There I am.

Well, I’m not overly babyfaced here. It looks like I’m trying to give a clever smile. Because it’s me, I can tell that’s what I’m trying to do. To you, it probably looks like I’m not quite succeeding in my efforts to shit a brick.

For posterity.

Yay.

 

I’m not entirely sure what my point in all of this is. Maybe it’s just that things change, and when faced with a physical proof of that, we stop and stare a moment longer. Like a strange mesh of nostalgia and realization. Maybe that’s all nostalgia is, a realization that things change.

You’re becoming the type of person you once saw. Mentor, elder, beauty. That can never stop being strange. And come to think of it, that can never stop.

FB

 

Eat your Cake

Eat your Cake

The problem is as follows.

Stress can be relieved very easily when you come to—or force—the realization that a given situation doesn’t really matter. And really, that isn’t very difficult to do, given the right frame. You see, ultimately, most situations don’t matter.

Let’s assume we live to be 80. And if you don’t live to be 80, it’s because something outside of your control happened like, say, you got hit by a bus.

You’ve got a lot of time left. You can do all sorts of things with that time. You can try again. You can change your mind. You can move. Possibilities just stretch on and on.

Tomorrow, you could throw away your id, grab a warm coat, and just start walking. You might not even need the coat.

My point being, you’ve got a lot of time left, so what happens tomorrow really doesn’t matter. You’ll have time to fix it, or to find something new.

We’ll go into more of this later, but for now, here’s my point. Stress can, with some effort, be manipulated away.

Now, there can be a ton of advantages to that, the most obvious being… you aren’t stressed anymore. Not being stressed generally allows a greater degree of self-control. It allows you to do what you want, because stress, when it reaches certain levels, can become a paralytic.

As a rule, anything that paralyzes you is bad.

Now, there are some obvious, and pretty key, disadvantages to what I’ve just described, one of them being a sense of urgency. Stress lends a sense of urgency to certain things, those things that worry you and, let’s face it, probably should be urgent. If you do not feel stress, then important things will just fritter away.

scribbles

fritter enough things away, and even with thirty or forty or fifty years left,

you wont be able to catch up on the opportunities

The other major issue with getting rid of stress is the highlights stress makes. Those butterflies fermenting in your stomach? They add a weight, a significance to an event, that wouldn’t be there otherwise. They’re worth savouring.

So what we have here, is a paradox.

(I love these)

Here, we want the best of both worlds. We want to be able to avoid the consequences of stress. (I am here assuming that the biggest consequence of stress is missed opportunity through inaction.)

scribbles

too much action can also be bad,

and will sap the joy from your life

but I’m not going to go into that now

The other disadvantage is mild, or at least passing, discomfort. I’m going to deem that unimportant.

scribbles

when said discomfort ceases to be mild or

passing,

it can become important

this, however, is another subject

So, we would like the urgency stress adds to a situation, we would like the significance it adds to a situation, and furthermore, we would like to keep stress from being a paralytic.

Simple, right?

Now, I started out by giving you all the reasons you shouldn’t be stressed. Now I’ve given reasons stress is good, but I haven’t yet given reasons to be stressed. I’ll be going into those now.

To start with, we’ve all heard of the butterfly effect, right? Short explanation: if a butterfly flaps its wings somewhere, it can cause a hurricane somewhere else. Cause, effect, cause, effect, cause, hurricane. Because of a butterfly.

This means that a tiny action you take right now, could have an effect on you in twenty years. A hurricane effect.

Yaaaay…..

Now, I don’t believe that every single thing you do will have some major significance. In fact, I believe most actions, taken individually, will not. But you know what? Some of them will. Something today might have. Maybe something tomorrow. You don’t know. And you do a thousand things in a day. And there are seven days in a week. And

we could cry until we can’t breathe—sadness

there are four weeks in a month. And those months just keep on coming.

So what this means, is that everything you do, could affect you, for better or worse, in twenty years. And that, my friend, is more than enough to stress over.

So, we’re going to treat everything as having the potential to change our lives. But…

If everything out there, from smallest to largest, has the potential to drastically affect us, and we have no way of knowing which is which is why and when, added to the fact you don’t know which active choice is the right path and which is the first step to damnation in twenty years because you didn’t glance at the clouds when going for a walk and ah ah ah, oh no, what am I going to do, nonononoNOOOO!!!!!!

Boom. Paralytic. Because everything you do, every action you take, has the potential to be the wrong choice.

Everything. You do.

I had way more fun writing that part then a person should. I’m just imagining the trembling lips and wide eyes as the significance of this sinks in.

I’m going to go back into this later, but first, let’s review.

  1. Stress is bad. It’s a paralytic, and can have negative effects on your actions.
  2. Stress is good. It lends urgency to things that deserve it, as well as a weight to significant actions and circumstances.
  3. Stress can be shut down.
  4. Shutting down stress entirely causes you to miss out on its advantages.
  5. Let’s make an internal paradox, wherein we get the best of both worlds! But first, let’s explain stress…
  6. Stress is generally ill-founded because we’ve got (arguably) 80 years on this earth to try again and experiment and figure stuff out. But wait…
  7. Everything affects everything! So your tiny action today can rock your world in twenty years! So stress! Stress and stress and then cry in the fetal position! Because really, that’s the only reaction that makes sense.

 

So this is where we are so far. The only thing that makes sense is to cry.

but with everyone super…no one will be—syndrome

Or go insane.

Because look around you. Today, you walked by a hundred hundred people. And each person has a thousand little threads branching off them, one for everything they do today, except for the things that don’t matter, but no one knows which things those are. And these threads are going to get all tangled up with everyone else threads, and there’s no way to follow even one thread back to the source because this butterfly effect has been going on since time began and maybe this thread is important but I don’t know and no one knows and here we go into chaos.

And no one can tell if you made the right choice! Chances are, you’ll never know if the choice you made is what caused you to meet this person, getting tangled up in his threads, and changing your life.

scribbles

im here talking about non-moral choices,

like what you eat for

lunch,

or which way you drive home

in moral choices, you obviously still cant tell the effects that will stem,

but there is still a clear,

or at least solid

answer

So in short, you’ll never know what effects your choices will have because there are too many variables. Make sense?

Here we come full circle in this particular idea. Everything matters, but to such a fundamental degree that you cannot allow it to affect your actions, because that will cause, that’s right, paralysis, and we want to avoid stasis at all costs.

It’s a sort of nihilism through idealism, an idea I just find infinitely funny.

its really not so good to have time. rush, scramble, desperation, this missed, that left behind, those others too big to fit into such a small place—that’s the way life was meant to be. youre supposed to be too late for some things. don’t worry about it—the skull in haggard’s castle

Everything matters and affects everything.

This leads to the conclusion that life is largely unpredictable, and you can’t make choices based on this, since you can’t predict the outcome, making said choices meaningless.

There’s a pretty easy, and entirely ill-suited conclusion you can come to from all this. It’s a conclusion that lets you avoid stress, guilt, all sorts of nasty things, but it kind of robs you of any integrity. So here is the conclusion I am NOT trying to lead you too.

Whenever you fail at something, or duck out, or piss yourself and hide, just remind yourself that, ‘Hey! That guy on the internet said nothing matters! Nihilism through, uhhhh….. Nothing matters! That makes it okay! There’s a Star Trek Marathon on tonight!”

Whenever you succeed at something, crawling out of the basement into the light of day, remind yourself that ‘Hey! Everything matters! Idealism and, butterflies stop hurricanes! Now I can go watch the Star Trek Marathon because I’m gonna be rich in twenty years!’

I will repeat. Those last two paragraphs? Wrong. Not the conclusions you should be drawing.

So we’ve gone through that everything effects—or might affect—everything else. And this happens to the extent that life is unpredictable. Now, there’s one more thing I’m not saying.

Most of life is unpredictable. True.

It does not follow that all of life is unpredictable, or that you cannot apply simple cause and effect in your daily life. If you stay up all night, you will be tired. There isn’t enough chaos to change that (In this situation, coffee is not considered a form of chaos). If you have enough sugar, you will become giddy. If you practice throwing and catching a knife, you will, at some point, cut yourself (personal experience, I’m afraid).

So, aside from simple equations, life is unpredictable. Accept it. Move on. I strongly discourage crying in the fetal position. It’s a paralytic.

Continuing with the numbering above,

7.  Everything you do, will affect your life, or has the potential to.

8.  This is such a large and ununderstandable idea, that you cannot base decisions on it.

So, we went through all that, and came to the conclusion, that we don’t know anything, and we clearly can’t base decisions off of our non-knowledge. So, I’ve reached two conclusions about what you should do. This will come back to stress, I promise.

if whatever youre going to do is wrong, you might as well do whatever you want—chronicler

You won’t be able to predict all the results of your actions. Never. So, you may as well do whatever will make you happiest at that moment. Or, what you can follow as a simple, or probable, equation to what will make you happy. This is the first situation, and I consider it less important than the second one.

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less important,

generally

The second situation is a little more complex.

Basically, the more doors you open, the more avenues, choices, you will have. And the more likely you are to find one that leads you to happiness. Now, you can’t predict precise results. But, as a rule, when you do something, it opens a door. This is more likely to lead to a conclusion of your choice, rather than one out of your control. Because when you do something, you’re opening a door. This is important. The action of doing something, opens a door. Later, you can choose not to go through the door, or decide the avenue looks a little less interesting then you’d like. But if you do not commit that first action, then the door stays closed. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to close the door later, but you might only have one to open it.

And the more doors you have open, the more possible routes you have to happiness.

Of course, by committing an action and opening a door, you may be closing another one. But that door will likely be an older one, and one you have less control over. Maybe even one you can’t see anymore, or have forgotten about. And if it’s not…well, then you’ll have to make a decision. How useful will that old door be? How about the new one?

With so many things out of your control, this is what you know. By committing a certain action, you open a door. By not committing said action, you leave the door closed. And that’s really all you have to go on.

So we’ve established that you should base your decisions on

9. If their results will make you happy, and more primarily, by the fact that actions tend   to open doors, which is desirable.

Now’s where we tie it all back to stress. And it’s really very simple.

You make the decision ahead of time.

I’ve decided that you will base your decision on doors. You can introduce more variables, but we’re going to keep things simple, just like the rest of this post has been (ha! Just kidding).

You make the decision, right now, that when faced with a choice between opening a door or not, YOU WILL OPEN THE DOOR. Gonna talk to someone or not? Talk to them. Dropping off resumes? Try that one new store. Taking classes? Take that other one, the one that sounded interesting. Go for a walk by the river? Grab your coat and step outside. OPEN. THE. DOOR.

Make the decision.

Then, when you’re faced with the circumstance, faced with the door, you’ll already know what you’re going to do. It won’t be a question.

So, you’ll be faced with a stressful situation. You’ll feel the urgency of something, wanting to do it before it’s gone. You’ll feel the significance, trembling in your stomach. And you’ll have made your decision. You’ll avoid the paralysis.

Open the door.

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